Wednesday, March 16, 2011

two cops and a dead groundhog

I saw the weirdest thing on Sunday as I drove up highway 68 toward Lexington. Two young cops had their cars pulled over and were directing traffic in and out of Southland, and there in the same space was a HUGE dead groundhog. Do you know how big a groundhog is? Those of you in Alberta - it is much much bigger than an obese gopher. It is the size of a small seal with short legs. They are quiet homey fellows who live in families and don't bother anyone. But they do dig big holes. I love groundhogs, but this one didn't make it across the street apparently.

So there it was, lovely and dead. Not mushed or swollen or decaying, probably not dead long. (It's little legs were not sticking straight out which is a sure signal of yesterday's kill.)

And there were the two cops directing traffic, almost having to step over it. Now wouldn't you think they would move it to the side? Wouldn't it be reasonable to notice and act on this large dead creature in your space?

Something about this made me laugh. Two cops and a dead groundhog, and hundreds of cars of slightly wrinkled church going folks on their way home to frozen pizza and the UK game.

It just didn't seem right.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

snow in March

Today as I trudged across the lawn hauling two bags of bird seed - one black thistle and one safflower - I noticed that the red maple is starting to put out little red seed helicopters. When we were kids in Southern Ontario we would take maple seeds and split them open in a certain way and attach them to our noses. Anyone who grew up with maples did this, I bet. It is an innate human activity - walking around with maple keys on your nose. And I noticed that my daffodils are fully developed - not open, just with a full sized flower pod and the first sunny day will lure them open.

Now I am watching wet snow fall from the gray gray sky. Accumulation is not expected. I am standing by my sink with some rice beginning to simmer and the mushrooms browning thinking that life is a lot like today. Some things are budding and about to bud, and snow is falling.

Granted, there are some days that give up everything - sunshine, growth, joy, pleasures of all kinds and no bad thing in sight. But mostly it is a mix. Daffodils budding and snow falling. Or sunshine and the slugs have eaten all the lily foliage.

A disposition of appreciation is not about finding the sunny happy thing and being thankful. It is not a 'glass half full' perspective. Appreciation is much more robust - it is about finding the grace of life in every moment of living. Ultimately an appreciative spirit is connected to a sense of awe toward God. Deeply salted with gratitude (just salted my mushrooms so my choice of words is somewhat affected) and joy, an appreciative spirit can be cultivated and honed to flourish.

Life happens to us, and then we happen to life. What instinctive response do you bring to the moments opening in your day? Is your response appreciative, or depreciative? Full of grateful awe and joy or sour and despairing?

I am not at all trying to write a little devotional to focus you on something positive. Much more to the point, I am simply saying that the gifts of life are mixed blessings, that we do choose, and that what we choose over and over we become.

Monday, March 7, 2011

a letter today from a beloved woman pastor friend

Before you read this, I have to say what throbs in my heart - we need each other. Women need women. We need to listen. To know that what is happening in my heart is happening in someone else's heart. I received this precious letter today and asked my friend if I could post it. I want you to read it because this is real stuff of a woman's heart. This woman is a beautiful soul - a pure servant and a genuine beloved of God. I know she will read this. I love you friend.


Yesterday after church, I said to a good friend: "I'm so tired of trying to keep this church afloat". I had previously mentioned this to God during and after the service. I went on..."We have sustained on IV's and other meds for so long, I think a Hospice referral is appropriate."

My first what you say to anybody!! At the moment, I truly "felt" what I said. Today, I still affirm: I'm so tired of pumping air in this local parish. I looked into the faces of 18 faithful souls, who had appeared for church. Numbers usually don't bother me, but sometimes a preacher knows too the people who are off for the weekend to "relax", or those deeply spiritual people who are mad and spread their poison to others.

It was a Holy Communion Day, and I preached on God's glory shining through us in our servant roles.Of course I urged us to remember the "great servant" who is teacher and enabler.I'm not sure "God's glory" was shining through me when I voiced concerns to my friend.

Guess what has bothered me the most?? Not what I said, but that she did not hear me. She's a good sensitive friend....beloved.I just wanted her to hear me...get it out of my system and go on.

Well, after some minutes of sincere endeavor to highlight my shortcomings, I just decided to crawl back in my hole and hush. One of her comments is true - I am tired....but in a way she cannot understand. Does that lifelong tiredness ever go away? I've hoped sleep would address it, but the grief tired just drags on. It makes tears come to my eyes, as I type. Any thoughts,from the one who hears me and
loves me?? I wish I was close by,just to sit with you and see you smile at me.I love you and miss you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

doing theology

I was spending time with a gospel text this past week, in the way I spend time with stories. I sit on my thinking chair beside a good light and I have open my bible, my journal, some books of spiritual poetry and scattered around me are papers, bits of ideas scratched onto napkins, other journals open - general flotsam of the mind. Steve commented that he has never seen anyone who approached scripture with less connection to biblical resources - commentaries in particular. I want to talk about this.

First, I am convinced of the reality of the Holy Spirit as teacher, guide and one who whispers the words of God. The Holy Spirit is my companion in these mediative times. My confidence is not an excuse away from serious study, it is the beginning of study. I sit with the Word for extended periods of meditation and discipline and live in the story, with the people, in the experience, and I listen.

Second, I travel in a general direction against the flow of some traditional interpretation of the gospel story I am living in. That doesn't mean I am unteachable and seeking the novel, but rather I try to live into the story as a human before I let the story become just a defense of a particular theological position. Most texts seem to have been un-storied, it seems to me. When stories lose their visceral human connection with our lives and become simply a support of a theological position we are distanced from them and the people involved. And thus, we are distanced from the Word itself.

My fear is that my kind of approach (a human storied approach) to scripture renders my work (apparently) theologically insignificant. But in the world of formation - that is, the world of human experience of God - nothing could be further from the truth. We are not so much changed by rhetoric - talking about changing - as by encountering experiences, relationships and episodes of life. While there is a place for a theological rendering of gospel stories, we suffer loss when we lose a rich life orientation to what is written as a witness to life.

Some years ago I moved quite far from any connection with a local church (relatively speaking of course). My reasons are not important for this discussion, but my journey removed me from the experience of being with other believers. I lived this way for some time and listened to the discourse about 'faith' outside the church. I listened to the media, to rhetoric of other faiths, to the average conversation in the marketplace, and came to a settled conclusion: thinking about faith must be done from within the faith community. No outside voice can carry on my faith conversation. I became convinced that I must keep a strong connection with the church - the real and local church with all its flaws - because I cannot understand my faith except from the inside. Theology is the work of the inside - within the biblical tradition and within the house of faith. As ragged as that is, and as seemingly 'sectarian', this inner witness is the fertile soil of faith life for me.

All this said, I do finally visit the voices of thinkers and saints who have gone before me. This is my community, my great cloud of witnesses. But as one who is familiar with the great biblical texts and stories, I take the posture of one invited in freshly, finding life and surprise in the story of how the human race has encountered God.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rainy day Saturday

Wind howling. Rain falling. Blue fog around my brain.
Going out to Jazz and drinking coffee.
Doing what I can do to be fully alive and awake while
Wind howling. Rain falling. Blue fog around my brain.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I wish I wrote this.

A friend sent me this and I am deeply moved by it. I believe it is truth. As I learn about formation and dare to live with openness to God and others I find that we have limited our wisdom because of fear.

"In the Girl There's a Room"- Sara Groves

In the girl there's a room
In the room there's a table
On the table there's a candle
And it won't burn out

In the man there's vision
In the vision is a road
It's the road to his freedom...

In the boy there's a voice
And the voice there's a calling
In the call there's a promise
And it won't quiet down

In the woman is a picture
In the picture is a girl
In the girl there's a room...

Tell me what you know
About God and the world and the human soul
How so much can be wrong
And still there are songs

In the man is a work
And the work is his future
And the future is his children
And he won't slow down

In the woman there's a faith
In the faith there's a prayer
In the prayer there's a promise...

In the boy is a dream
In the dream he is standing
And he stands without shaking/ failing/ wavering/ fear
And he won't sit down

In the girl is a song
In the song there is hope
In the hope there's defiance...

Tell me what you know
About God and the world and the human soul
How so much can be wrong
And still there are songs

In their hearts and souls
An unstoppable refrain
Hope stands/sings in defiance